Every now and then you come across an organization so incredibly on brand you almost feel like you’re talking to yourself. That’s how I first felt when one of our Ambassadors introduced me to Grateful Peoples, a nonprofit organization focused on spreading gratitude in schools and communities. A few emails and a little time zone math later, I was able to join Teddy Droseros, the founder of Grateful Peoples on an inspiring video call. I’m thrilled to share his story here.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Happiness is..
Teddy: Happiness is.. hanging out with my niece and seeing her smile. Really, happiness is people.
Liz: Tell me about yourself and Grateful Peoples.
Teddy: When I was 24 years old, I was working in finance and felt like I was stuck in the routine of wake up, go to the office, come home. I knew there had to be more, so I started reading about mindfulness and self-improvement. I came across the idea of starting a gratitude journal. Each night, before bed, I would write three things I was grateful for. I’m not great at creating new habits but this one stuck and after even just a couple weeks, I noticed my mind responding and reacting differently to the outside world.
My perspective really shifted when I was applied gratitude to my mother’s illness. She had Multiple Sclerosis since I was a baby and because of that, it was a neutral, accepted thing for me. But as I got more into gratitude, I began to understand her sickness and even though she passed away a few years ago, the mindfulness I found around this experience changed so many perspectives for me and I know she’ll be teaching me new things every day for the rest of my life.
When I realized that gratitude had shifted my perspective on something so serious and dark, I wanted to do more. It began as an email thread to ten friends telling them what I was grateful for and asking them what they were grateful for. A few immediately texted me asking if I was okay, ha. And that’s how we got started—this desire to share gratitude.
People would send me their gratitude and I would compile it into one email and send to everyone. I did that for 4 years. At the same time, I began building out Grateful Peoples. I felt called to make a Gratitude Journal and after printing it, the ideas organically grew. First, I wanted to go into schools and give the tools to children and work with teachers who could make daily gratitude a part of the curriculum.
Then, I took a Gratitude Journal to my favorite coffee shop in New York City, and they agreed to leave it out for people to write in. From there, it snowballed like magic and there were books all over the country in cafes and community spaces.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Teddy: For me it’s just to just go to bed feeling content with how I’ve spent my day—that’s the sign that you’re in the right place and you’re doing what you can for the people around you.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Teddy: In any way possible. I love hearing from people and I invite you to reach out. If you know a coffee shop that should have a book or a teacher that should bring gratitude into the classroom or if you’d like to hold a fundraiser on our behalf, reach out to me. You can also purchase the book and journal on the website.
Liz: Do you have a piece of advice you’d like to share in closing?
Teddy: Everything you experience is temporary. One day my heart is going to stop beating. How am I going to spend my time until then?